New York City Sues Oil Companies

Not to overlook a big part of the story: New York City is not only divesting its pension funds from fossil fuels. We can also add NYC to the list of states and municipalities who are filing legal action against the fossil fuel industry for damages caused by climate change.

As reported in Inside Climate News, New York City has filed suit to hold fossil fuel producers accountable for billions of dollars being spent to protect the city from the effects of climate change.

The complaint, filed on January 9, 2018, in U.S. District Court, names BP, Chevron, Conoco Phillips, ExxonMobil and Royal Dutch Shell as defendants. The suit alleges, among other claims, that

  • Fossil fuels are the primary cause of climate change.
  • The companies have continued to produce massive quantities of fossil fuels even as climate change had become gravely dangerous.
  • The companies had full knowledge that fossil fuels would cause catastrophic harm.
  • The companies promoted fossil fuels while engaging in a public relations campaign intended to cast doubt on climate change.
  • The city is expending - and will continue to spend - substantial funds to protect itself.
  • The companies' conduct is ongoing, and causing continuous harm to the city.

The suit asks for "compensatory damages" for costs that the city has already incurred, and costs of actions which the city "is currently taking and needs to take" to ...

  • protect city infrastructure and property, and
  • protect the public health safety and property of its residents

... from the impacts of climate change.

No dollar estimate is given, but it would be reasonable to suppose that such "compensatory damages" would amount to billions of dollars. The suit also asks that, if the companies do not pay, the court should grant an injunction to "abate" the on-going damage. We can only speculate what such injunctive relief could be, but the words suggest that the companies might be ordered to cease operation.